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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reading Between The Lines

I’m sitting in a bookstore and this novel captures my attention, so I pick it up.  I don’t know books very well, because I don’t read that often.  This book could be like a hundred or a thousand others I’ve seen in my lifetime, but something about this one is different.  So, I open it and I begin to read. 

Part of me doesn’t want to actually sit here and read it because I have so many other things to do.  And that’s a lie I tell myself because I just don’t read that often.  Reading takes more work than I’m used to doing.   I liked reading, when I was younger, but I never read for me.  I read because it was required.   Beyond that, I’ve always been a visual person, so I would rather watch the film and not have to think.   I would rather cover the material in two hours of time instead of days or weeks.  I guess I’m just lazy.

But I begin to read this one.   It’s harder to understand than the others.  The words aren’t monosyllabic and cutesy.  They require me to look up a couple of definitions in order to make sense of what I have just read.  Honestly, this book is slowly starting to madden me, because I have to work at it.  I could have watched a movie or a video and had been done.  Hell, I could have gone to Wikipedia and just looked up the thing and got a synopsis, but here I am still reading.  Damn this book.   It frustrates me to no end.  It actually requires me to think, to feel, to listen.  And I don’t mean just the story, I mean the entire book.

I feel the texture; the way the spine dips in and out, the lip of the cover as it hangs there over the material, the horizontal stack of pages between the front and the back.  It brushes against my skin and feels like it was made to be touched by hands in need of something stimulating.  It’s not a glossy paperback with a flashy well drawn character on the cover.  It’s not even bare or nondescript with simple titles.  It's somewhat classical, in nature, and the cover feels good against my fingertips.  I like it.   I like holding it.   I like running my finger along the cover, tracing the raised letters in the title.  I like the grooves and the curvature of the pages as I feel the exposed side of the book, running my fingers up and down the sides.

So often we lose the idea that physical books are important and we turn to technology to make it easier to read and learn.  But a tablet or eReader can't replace physical books and we are slowly losing sight of them in our lifetime.  You have to pick up a book and hold it.  You have to support it with your hands.  You have to manually turn the pages.  You have to provide yourself with the right light to see it.   Reading a book isn’t just about moving your eyes across a page.  You have to physically and emotionally invest yourself in reading it. You have to work at it and it demands that aspect of you without even muttering a word on its own.

And it makes a distinctive sound, too.  Have you ever thought about that?  That dulcet thump you hear when you tap the cover, the depth that the book has from the sound reverberating back to your ears.  You know that the deeper the tone must mean it carries more weight and is full of knowledge and wonder.   The sound that emanates from it as you gently grasp the page, turning it, anticipating what is going to happen next may go unnoticed by some, but it echoes out and signals something important to you.  That sound has such a pleasing timbre, yet it goes unnoticed anymore because we just don't get to hear it enough in our day.  We're used to the clacking of keys and even the slick acetone texture from sliding our fingers on a magazine page.  Those are noises, disruptions in an otherwise quiet mind.  The turning of this book's pages is like a symphony of paper, rich and weighted.

And the story.  The story is like nothing else.  I’ve only scratched the surface with a couple of pages and here I am engrossed to the hilt.  Normally, I would just skip to the end and see how it all turns out because I’m always in a hurry.  I don’t have time to sit and invest myself in this.  But this story keeps throwing twists at me.   And the more the story throws roadblocks between the characters, the more irate I become with it because it’s just a book, right?  It’s something that should be so easy to get through.   In fact, a couple of paragraphs irk me so much that I want to put it back on the shelf and say, “No, I will not do this to myself.  I have better things to do with my time.”   I have even been to the point where I’ve actually closed the book, attempted to put it back on the shelf, and walked away, only to just huff and open it again, rereading a couple of paragraphs to see if I missed something important; some clue to help make me understand.  And just like that it draws me back in and hours go by like seconds.

Then I realize that I do have to move along and I do have to put the book down for awhile.  I have other things going on that need my attention, right now.   And I have every intention of coming back to it and hope that it will still be there, but I realize that this is a rare thing to find and someone else has to be looking for it, too.  It's probably someone more suited for the task, someone with a better mind to understand it.  The fact that I'm monopolizing it is wrong and I'm probably keeping it from being somewhere better off than with someone like me, who doesn't usually read.  But I worry about it.  Odd thing to worry about, because it's in a bookstore and not with you.  But, I do.  It’s liable to be gone as soon as I walk away from the door.   Gone forever.  Days can go by, but I think about it all the same.  Wondering if perhaps it's still there.  Wondering if it wants me to come back and read some more.

Every so often, I can check in on the book and try to fight the taskmasters in my life for a chance to read a few pages.  I enjoy my time and it gives me such pleasure. To have the chance to be around such a fascinating thing is always a good thing.   Someday, I may have all the time in the world to devote to reading, but right now, I can’t.

But, I’m also afraid of that prospect.  I’m afraid of how it will end.  In fact, I’m afraid of actually reaching the end.  What then?  I can always go back and read the story, again, but it will never be like the first time.  And, I will have already known how it will end, because I’ve read it.   I run the risk of ruining it for someone who may appreciate it more because, until now, I've never cared about reading.  I invested so much time in the story, in holding the book up, in listening to and feeling the pages, and I don’t want it to end.  

In fact, now I’m so pissed at myself because I should never have picked it up in the first place.  As long as the book exists, and I know some of  the story, it will always be perfect in my mind, right?  The story won't end.  And, I can’t ruin it by not taking proper care of it, so I should just leave it where it is.  I mean, after all, the damn thing is too wordy and I just don’t have the patience for it.   I worked overtime at figuring out the plot and that was excruciating, because it just wouldn’t tell me what I wanted to hear.  It just kept holding back and allowing me to do all this work just to understand a fraction of it.   

I’m serious.  Remember, I don’t read.  I’ve done the bare minimum in terms of work when it comes to reading.  Whatever this book is trying to tell me is just the most infuriating and exasperating thing I’ve ever read.  I find myself lying in bed, debating over something I read earlier and literally grinding my teeth at how I had to work out a passage in my head, because it was so hard to read.

The gall of this book for making me work so hard to enjoy something so refreshing and unique.  How dare it make me feel for a story like that?  What gave it the right to draw me in, have me read word after word, turn page after page, and just begin to even put in a tenth of the amount of work I’m used to just to get through a few chapters? 

Oh, yeah, that’s right.  When it’s good, it’s supposed to do that.   That means it’s not only worthy of my time, but that I should feel all those things.  A book should do that to your mind and your soul. 

I should keep reading.

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